12th South Asian Games: Gold rush, Rio Olympic berth for Kavita Raut but India lose hockey final
Holding on firmly to the top spot in the overall standings, India increased their tally to 248 -- including 146 gold, 79 silver and 23 bronze medals.
Guwahati: Long-distance runner Kavita Raut's Olympic qualification was the icing on the cake on yet another impressive day for India but they had to be contend with a silver in men's hockey after losing to arch-rivals Pakistan on day seven of the 12th South Asian Games here on Friday.
Holding on firmly to the top spot in the overall standings, India increased their tally to 249 -- including 146 gold, 80 silver and 23 bronze medals.
Following the hosts at the distant second position was Sri Lanka with 157 medals, including 25 gold, 53 silver and 79 bronze medals. Pakistan remained steady at the third spot with 73 medals (7 gold, 23 silver and 43 bronze).
Even as they stayed miles ahead of the rest, India produced a disappointing performance to lose to arch-rivals Pakistan 0-1 in a lacklustre summit clash of men's hockey.
Awaisur Rehman scored the lone goal of the match in added time of the first half as Pakistan clinched the gold medal and notched up a hat-trick of titles in the South Asian Games. This was India's second defeat to Pakistan in the ongoing Games.
It was the last day of athletics competitions and Kavita made it special by qualifying for the Rio Olympics in women's marathon. The 30-year-old Raut easily clinched the marathon gold in 2 hours 38 minutes and 38 seconds to become the fourth Indian women to have qualified for Rio Games women's marathon. The Rio Games women's marathon qualification standard stands at 2:42:00.
O P Jaisha, Lalita Babbar and Sudha Singh have already qualfied for women's marathon in Rio Olympics.
Sri Lankans N G Rajasekara (2:50:47.00) and B Anuradhi (2:52:15.00) took the silver and bronze respectively.
Nashik girl Raut is the lone athlete to have qualified for the Olympics from the 12th SAG.
Another Rio Olympics-bound Nitender Singh Rawat took the men's marathon gold in 2:15:18 seconds in a close finish in a star-studded field. He won the race by being merely a second ahead of Indrajith Cooray of Sri Lanka who has also qualified for Rio Games.
The men's race had a dramatic ending and there was apparently some confusion over the finishing line inside the Indira Gandhi Athletics Stadium.
"Both Rawat and Cooray were not sure of the finishing line and they thought they would finish after running a lap inside the stadium. That was why there was a difference of just one second in the timings of gold and silver winner," a technical committee member told PTI.
Cooray took the silver in 2:15:19 seconds while another Indian Kheta Ram, the third competitor to have booked a Rio Games berth, got the bronze in 2 hours 21 minutes and 14 seconds.
With today's two gold and one bronze, India ended the athletics competition with 28 gold, 22 silver and 9 bronze, medals, thereby establishing their unrivalled superiority in the South Asian region.
A similar script unfolded in the shooting ranges with Rio Olympics-bound Chain Singh stealing the limelight by grabbing his second yellow metal. In fact, Indians ran away with all the four gold medals on offer in yet another dominating performance.
The 26-year-old Chain upstaged his senior team-mate Gagan Narang to win the men's 10m air rifle event with a total score of 204.6 to add to his 50m rifle prone gold at the Kahilipara Shooting Range.
Gagan, who had won a bronze in this event in 2012 London Olympics, had to be content with a bronze. He had also lost the gold to Chain in the 50m rifle prone event yesterday.
Mohd Sovon Chowdhury of Bangladesh won the silver today with a total score of 203.6.
The trio of Chain, Narang and Imran Khan won the gold in the team event with a total score of 1863.4, while Bangladesh (1845.8) and Sri Lanka (1827.2) bagged the silver and bronze respectively.
In the men's individual 20m standard pistol event, Indians ran away with all the medals on offer. Neeraj Kumar bagged the gold with a total shot of 569 while compatriots Gurpreet Singh (566) and Mahender Singh (563) took the silver and bronze respectively.
The trio of Neeraj, Gurpreet and Mahender then won the team gold with a total score of 1698, while Pakistan (1663) and Sri Lanka (1603) took the silver and bronze respectively.
After a relatively lean day today, the Indian contingent can expect some exciting action in the boxing arena from tomorrow.
With seasoned campaigners such as M C Mary Kom and Shiva Thapa leading the charge, India will fancy all 10 gold medals up for grabs when the boxing competition gets underway.
India have fielded a star-studded team of seven men and three women -- including Olympic, Commonwealth and Asian Games medallists -- in 10 weight categories.
The South Asian Games may not offer them much in terms of tough competition but it is certainly a decent build-up before the Indians head to the Asia/Oceania Olympic Qualification tournament in Qian'an, China from March 23. So far, none of the Indian boxer has booked an Olympic berth.
The much-celebrated Mary Kom (51kg) will be the cynosure of all eyes in the event.
The five-time world champion and London Olympics bronze- medallist is easily among the most successful sporting talent to come out of the North East and the Manipuri will attract fans to the SAI Campus in the North Eastern Hill University on the outskirts of the city.
In her return from an injury layoff following her gold medal win at the 2014 Asian Games in Incheon, Mary Kom had lost in the semifinals of an Olympic test event in December last year.
Another Manipuri boxer who will be keenly watched is Laishram Sarita (60kg), the Asian Games bronze-medallist, who is also on a comeback trail after completing a one-year ban for an infamous emotional meltdown following her semifinal loss in Incheon.
Pooja Rani (75kg), another Asiad bronze-winner, makes the third member of the women's squad.
The men's team is equally star-studded, featuring among others, World Championships bronze-medallist Shiva (56kg), Commonwealth Games silver winners Laishram Devendro (49kg) and Mandeep Jangra (69kg) and Asian Championships silver-medallist Vikas Krishan (75kg).
The quartet can be considered sure-shot gold contenders in their respective categories. Shiva and Devendro, in fact, will be the crowd-pullers too given that the former hails from Guwahati and the latter is a Manipuri.
Also there in the team are former national champion Madan Lal (52kg) and World Military Games silver-winner Dheeraj Rangi (60kg).
India have another experienced boxer in Manoj Kumar (64kg), the 2010 Commonwealth Games gold-medallist and 2012 London Olympics quarterfinalist.